Teri Orr: When run you from, and no longer to…
He was a familiar figure — tall, thin and more recently with a shock white hair that had replaced the former thick crop of dark brown. A runner, mostly early mornings, for decades around Park City — with a dog when he had one. Then without. He ran in those early morning hours before God got up or at least most of his neighbors. And he ran all the streets of Park City. Ran up the hills and down Main Street. Into precious pricey enclaves and familiar tired Old Town streets. He ran to meditate and understand. He tried to outrun his demons and his sorrow.
In the ’70s his military service was in Germany in munitions but more recently — he hinted to me he may have served some mission in the war in Vietnam. Since that is also my era — I have learned to never ask direct questions about ’Nam when anyone whispers it — just listen whenever a story is offered.
He was wicked smart when it came to land-use issues and especially how ski resorts should function on mountaintops, but also what the run-off looked like … what happened at the bottom of the mountain. He worked on resorts all over Europe and the western United States. He landed in Utah in late ’70s and became my neighbor in the early ’80s. I didn’t know any of these past things for decades — he kept to himself so much — I didn’t even know when his first wife left him from the house across the street. Just that she did. And he had a young son he adored. After a spell he remarried — a cheerful, smart, East Coast blonde — with priors of her own — who had ended up in Sun Valley where he met her and invited her here. They married — took custody of his firstborn son full time and then had a son of their own. They were cheerful and hardworking and wicked smart. For sanity and health he continued to run and she fiercely played tennis at the Racquet Club (before we renamed it The MARC). They were easy neighbors and we became close friends. There were hours and hours of porch sitting and kitchen counter sitting (depending on the weather) with beverages and snacks. We had years of debate over city issues, sometimes state, rarely national. Our concerns and ability to act with any chance of really influencing an outcome — were all locally based.
Their boys became men and their parents were terribly proud of them.
I left being editor of this paper and he kept working across the globe with ski resort development and she became a three-termed beloved City Council member and the top sales person at Cole Sport. For her 40th birthday he planned the most romantic adventure and he threw a little party at their house and he handed her only a single envelope to open — along with some champagne. It was an engraved invitation (he had it specially made at a real print shop — that was a big deal in 1995) inviting her to celebrate her birthday — July 4th — with him in Paris. It was crazy romantic and all of us who had never received such a gift had a proper amount of envy.
She worked right up until she couldn’t anymore when cancer took her in 2011. After she passed he kept working — and kept caring for his beloved historic Glenwood Cemetery nestled in the trees beneath The Resort. Making certain the lawn was mowed carefully every week and the flags were placed on the appropriate graves each Memorial Day. He was an impeccable dresser when it came to special events — understated but with European flair. About five years ago he agreed — after serving on the Park City Planing Commission (board member and then chair) for 16 years — he agreed to become the Park City planning director. He loved mentoring young planners. In September, he announced he would retire from City Hall this spring. His influence on this city — from the ’80s until this fall — is nearly impossible to measure. His fingerprints from the top of Deer Valley to a bungalow in Old Town will long be visible. He didn’t have any great adventures planned for this spring — just an opportunity for him to start more visits to his grandchild back east and sail with his older son and wife on their boat in Texas.
He didn’t make it. Bruce Erickson had demons that came from places we will never fully understand — his sons want you to know that. They want people who need help to seek help. And they also know you can try and try and try to help someone and if they are not ready and willing — they are not able. Bruce’s liver finally failed. And Bruce’s sons and their wives and the grandchild — with another on the way — are all cheated out of the golden years that could have surely been filled with visiting places on the planet Bruce had been and contributed to and had influenced their outcomes.
His sons know the level of influence their parents had on this town. They adored The Grey Ghost who ran parts of Park City and around it, until his body could no longer support him.
I will miss my neighbor who fully owned the names of Contrarian and Curmudgeon and CrabMaster with measured pride. He plowed my driveway because he honestly loved playing with his snowblower and … I live alone. Who tossed the Sunday papers on my porch when he ran past them on the lawn. Who taught my three grandkids about making a fire for hots dogs in a tiny backyard barbecue that time I thought I could try a Camp Oma weekend with The Grands on my own. The time he saved Thanksgiving when someone had given the Holy Cross nuns next door a deep fryer and they decided to deep fry the turkey and started just … a little fire. I will miss arguing with him about politics — local and national. I will miss seeing him go for a run then work in his yard. Miss him being at the recycling center on Saturday mornings to direct the trash traffic. Miss his strong opinions and his tender words about the ethos and principals of/at City Hall. Miss his annual dissertation about the eternal lasting brilliance of Redford and Streep in the forever-relevant “Out of Africa.” A film he owned.
He kept my secrets. And I kept his. And maybe I shouldn’t have kept them all. It is so hard to know what to say when someone slips away slowly and all at once — as he did — this past Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
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Travel helps define our identity and culture, writes Jennifer Wesselhoff. “The real story is the people behind the data.”